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Healthy oil and gas prices increase licensing activity.
Oil and gas licensing is getting to be a popular occupation in Central and South America as high oil prices offer potential relief for pinched national budgets.
Honduras is launching the first licensing round in that country's history, said Rina Rodriguez, director of the General Mines and Hydrocarbons Directorate.
Honduras wants to get the process moving early this year, and it has submitted necessary documentation to the county's comptroller general.
Properties in the round are on the country's northern offshore platform. Following the usual plan for licensing, the country will initiate a prequalification round to make sure the companies making the bids have the economic capability of exploring and developing. It will award the licenses in the second round.
The directorate doesn't plan to open a data room to show off the geology of the offshore properties, but it will sell a full complement of CDs, maps and documents with the pertinent information through its office in Tegucigalpa.
By press time, seven companies had expressed interest in the licenses. At least one each is from Mexico, Canada and Colombia. Rodriguez did not name the companies.
At the same time, Nicaragua also planned an auction for February for acreage off its Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and it's getting shows of interest.
According to the Nicaraguan Energy Institute, 42,500 sq miles (110,000 sq km) will go into the auction. That acreage includes nearly 31,00 sq miles (80,000 sq km) on the Caribbean side and 11,600 sq miles (30,000 sq km) on the Pacific coast.
By mid-January, at least two US-based firms - MKJ Xplorations and Empire Energy - wanted in on the play.
The Nicaraguan round is not a strict guessing game. Oil companies have drilled wells off both coasts, and they have found oil and gas but not in quantities large enough to encourage development at the time.
Under the rules of the round, any company that wins a bid must begin exploration by the first half of 2002. A company that finds commercial quantities of oil or gas under the exploration license will get a 20-year development license to exploit the play. The contract also allows for extensions.
The nation began prequalifying bidders in May 2000.
Ecuador also is inviting bids, but it is going after state oil companies from six nations in an effort to develop two of its oil fields in the Amazon jungle. The nation's goal is to increase production to 97.5 million bbl/year - a 7.25% increase - in time for construction of a new heavy-oil pipeline scheduled for completion in 2002.
Offers have gone out to state oil companies of Chile, Norway, Japan, Brazil, China and Venezuela. It already has signed a letter of intent with the Chinese company, Rosendo Santo, manager of Ecuador's Petroproduccion branch, told the Energy Intelligence Group Inc., but at press time, Ecuador had not made the final step of giving that company exclusive jurisdiction over the field.